Rampage second in state

Forest Grove's premiere 14U softball team rolls to a runner-up finish at the

The Forest Grove Rampage 14U softball team recently capped a remarkable run at the Oregon 14A ASA State Championships, winning five straight games in the blistering heat on Sunday to make it to the tournament title game.

The Rampage played nine games in three days, including a grueling stretch of six consecutive games, culminating with the tournament championship. Once there, however, the physically exhausted Forest Grove squad ran out of gas and fell 8-0 to the Eugene Thunder.

'I was talking with one of the girls afterward,' recalled Forest Grove coach Ole Evenson, 'and she was in great physical pain from the 13 hours of straight softball, and I asked, 'Yeah, but did you have fun?' And her reply was, 'It was the greatest thing that I have ever done.' To me, that statement sums up what they accomplished.'

As impressive as the Rampage's runner-up finish was, it was facilitated by an almost superhuman individual effort from Emma Gronseth, who assumed exclusive pitching duties when the team's other pitcher, Molly Normandin, was lost for the summer with a broken arm.

Over the course of the weekend, Gronseth pitched a mind-boggling 59 innings, including 40 innings on Sunday as the Rampage streaked through the loser's bracket with five straight wins. For the tournament, Gronseth struck out 57 batters while allowing just 29 hits and only nine earned runs.

'Emma's performance was beyond words,' said Evenson. 'In my opinion, she proved to be a supreme athlete, competitor and leader. The best way I can sum up her performance is to say that it is the stuff that makes movies and writes books.'

Things were looking up for Forest Grove after the first day of play. The Rampage blasted the Salem Sliders 12-2 in the tournament opener, then snuck past the Oregon Little Saints 4-0 in Friday's second and final game.

The Rampage faltered on Saturday, however. Needing just one win to remain in the winner's bracket, Forest Grove committed two errors en route to a disheartening 1-0 loss to Rip City.

In that game, Rip City got just one hit off Gronseth, but it was an RBI double in the first inning that plated an unearned run. Forest Grove, meanwhile, cranked out seven hits but could not push a run across, relegating the team to the loser's bracket.

Then, in the first game on Sunday, the Rampage very nearly earned an early exit from the tournament when they found themselves trailing the Monmouth Breakers 2-0 in the fifth inning.

'At that point, I looked at some of my assistant coaches and I was trying to figure out how quickly we could get out of Junction City and back to Forest Grove,' said Evenson.

Luckily, the Rampage extended their stay in Junction City. Bridget White singled home a pair of runs in the fifth to tie things up, and Andrea Bailey knocked in Faith Evenson with the winning run in the bottom of the seventh to push Forest Grove through to the next round, where the team followed with a 3-2 win over the Sliders.

Forest Grove then squared off against the Beaverton Blaze, a squad that finished fourth out of 75 teams at the ASA National Tournament in Colorado Springs, Colo., earlier this summer. Needing a win to stay in contention for a state championship, Forest Grove squeezed out a 2-0 victory over the talented Blaze.

Gronseth allowed just two baserunners over seven strong innings, and she also gave the Rampage a 1-0 lead in the first inning with a perfectly executed suicide squeeze. Katy Brosig led off the game with a single and then alertly moved from first to third on a sacrifice bunt by Lindsay Eubanks. Gronseth, batting third, caught the Blaze off guard with a perfect bunt and Brosig raced home with what eventually proved to be the winning run.

In the fourth-place game, Forest Grove found itself up against Rip City, the team that relegated the Rampage to the loser's bracket on Saturday. Forest Grove got its revenge, riding a one-hitter by Gronseth to a 7-1 victory. Gronseth struck out five batters and also belted a solo home run in the fifth to help land the Rampage in the third-place game against the Hillsboro Thunder.

Forest Grove went ahead 1-0 in the second inning of that game only to see Hillsboro battle back, tying things up with a run in the sixth. With the game still tied after seven innings, the teams moved to international tiebreaker rules, were each inning starts with a runner on second base.

With Gronseth still going strong, the Rampage needed just a run or two to feel comfortable but instead erupted for seven runs in the top of the eighth, eventually coasting to a 7-1 triumph.

That win landed Forest Grove in the tournament championship against Eugene. The Rampage would have needed to win two straight games against the Thunder, who advanced to the title game through the winner's bracket, but it was not meant to be.

Gronseth battled valiantly but slowly succumbed to the heat and the non-stop competition on Sunday. Brosig eventually came on in relief but Eugene was simply too much, and the Thunder rolled to an 8-0 victory and a state championship.

'To me, the most impressive part is the mental toughness all the girls had,' said Evenson. 'We condition all year long so the physical part I knew they were capable of, but they were never satisfied with a strong showing with only nine girls. They took pride in their performance and truly left it all on the field.'

For the tournament, White led the team with seven RBIs while Evenson and Haylee Woll combined to score 11 runs. Eubanks had a team-high 14 assists in the field and Lindsey Rennie had 61 put outs. Claire Van Domelen, the team's only other rising sophomore, had a solid tournament defensively that included making the final two outs of the 2-0 win over the Beaverton Blaze on Sunday.

The State Championships featured some of Oregon's top 14U softball teams. The Rampage competed in the 'A' division, which is the top level of ASA play. There are also 'B' and 'C' divisions. Other teams from Forest Grove claimed fourth in the 14U 'B' state championships and second in the 12U 'B' tournament.

Next up for the Rampage is a few local tournaments, followed by the 14A ASA Western National in Beaverton, which begins in early August. That tournament will feature 90 top teams from the western part of the United States.